Nectarine – Health Benefits of Nectarines

Revisado por Equipe Editorial a 13 janeiro 2018

The nectarine is a rounded fruit, with juicy meat and with stone, similar to the peach. The skin is not hairy but smooth, as the plum’s skin, and it can be consumed peeled or unpeeled. The harvest of the nectarines in the N Hemisphere takes place in May, although they are found in the markets all the year round, since they are cultivated in many countries of the world. The nectarine is very similar to the peach; actually, it is a variety of peach. It is a hairless peach obtained by genetic mutation from the gene of the down crossed with the gene of the smooth skin. It has a more vivid colour (between a bright red and yellow colour) and it is usually smaller. Contrary to what people think, the nectarine is not a cross between a peach and a plum. It is a spontaneous variety of peach, so the peaches and the nectarines are genetically equivalent. The word nectarine comes from ‘ nectar’ since this fruit has a tasteful flavour. The nectarine has been cultivated for a long time. It is well-known in England since the end of the XVIth century and due to unknown reasons it was not sold the European markets for a long time.

At present, its consumption has increased thanks to France, United Kingdom and Germany, where the sales are on the increase. Nectarines are consumed fresh, cooked in order to preserve them, used for the manufacture of jam and jellies. This fruit is often uses as an ingredient or as part of desserts, cakes, pies, crepes and even sherbets or ice creams. The harvest of the nectarine in the N Hemisphere takes place during the month of May, and the fruit is sold until the end of July. In Spain, the provinces with greater production are Sevilla and Huelva, that devote a significant amount of their production to export. Although the production in the N Hemisphere is centred in spring time, we may find this juicy fruit out of season thanks to the production in other countries like South Africa, Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, the United States, etc. 

Types and Varieties of Nectarine 

There exists a wide range of varieties that are cultivated everywhere in the world. The colour of the skin ranges from bright red to orange. The stone may be adhered or not to the pulp. The culture of nectarines has raised in the last few years a world-wide enormous interest among the fruit producers. Below are described the most representative varieties. Among the most important stand out ‘Armking’, ‘Sunred’, ‘Maygrand’, ‘Red June’, ‘Morton’, ‘Nectared 2′, ‘Early Sungrand’, ‘Rhone Gold’, ‘Independence’, ‘Silver Lode’, ‘Moon Grand’, ‘Nectared 5′, ‘Nectared 4′, ‘Stark Sunglo’, ‘Sungrand’, ‘Flavortop’, ‘Stark Red Gold’, ‘Fantasia’, ‘Nectared 6′, ‘Le Grand’, ‘Nectared 8′, ‘Nectared 9′. A way to classify all these varieties is according to the type of flower they bear, thus for example within the group of the rosaceous flowers we find the varieties Early Sungrand, ‘Red June’, and ‘ Nectared 6 ‘. The Armking variety would belong to the group of the campanulate flowers. The texture of the nectarine meat is similar to that of the plum, of yellow colour and reddish inside, where the meat is next to the stone. Nevertheless, according to the varieties and the area of production, these characteristics may change. 

Some varieties are: 

‘ Armking’
Fruit of average size, of rounded to lengthy shape, sometimes slightly irregular, of orange-red colour. The pulp is yellow, moderately firm, of slightly acid taste and with a semi-adhered stone. 

‘ Sunred’
Average to small-sized fruit, rounded, of bright red colour and yellow pulp. 

‘ Maygrand’
The fruit has good size, of slightly elliptical shape and red-coloured. It is one of the most early varieties that exist. 

‘ Red June’
The fruit of this variety is of average to small size, practically spherical, of a dark red colour covering the whole of the surface. The pulp is yellow with red streaks, firm and of somewhat acid flavour. 

‘ Morton’
The size of the fruit is rather small, round-shaped, of an intense red colour that covers all the surface. The pulp is of white colour. This fruit is one of the few commercial varieties with this characteristic. 

‘ Nectared 2 ‘
This fruit is of average thickness, spherical, of a vivid red colour that covers three quarters of the surface. The pulp is yellow and not very firm. 

‘ Early Sungrand’
Mean-sized fruit, oval, of bright red colour. The pulp is yellow with red streaks, firm and with a large stone. 

‘ Rhone Gold’
Big fruit, of intense and bright red colour. The pulp is of orange-yellow colour and of middling quality taste. 

‘ Independence’
The fruit is of average size and oval shape, of bright red colour, yellow pulp with red streaks, good taste and large stone. 

‘ Silver Lode’
Small fruit, rounded, of bright red colour all over the surface, of white colour pulp and optimal taste. 

‘ Moon Grand’
Mean to average-small size. Very elongate shape, intense red colour all over the surface. The pulp is yellow, with red streaks and good taste. 

‘ Nectared 5 ‘
The fruit is of average thickness, spherical, of intense yellow-coloured pulp, firm and of good taste. It has an irregular production; for this reason, the producers prefer the variety Nectared 4, that matures at the same time, rather than Nectared 5. 

‘ Nectared 4 ‘
The fruit is of average thickness, rounded, of yellow pulp, moderate firmness and of good taste. It is the best of all the Nectared varieties. 
‘ Stark Sunglo’
Fruit of average thickness, of slightly oval shape and bright red colour. The pulp is yellow, firm and has a good taste. 

‘ Sungrand’
Fruit of large size, slightly oval, of vivid red colour covering 50-60% of the surface. The pulp is yellow, of deep red colour in the area next to the stone, that is of large size. 

‘ Stark Red Gold’
Fruit of large size, rounded, of an intense red colour covering two thirds of the fruit. The pulp is of intense yellow colour and strong firmness. 

‘ Fantasía’
The fruit is of large size, slightly oval, of a bright red colour that covers two thirds of the surface. The pulp is yellow with red streaks, firm and of very good taste. 

‘ Nectared 6 ‘
This fruit is of average size, of an intense red colour that covers all the surface. The pulp is of intense yellow colour, of mean firmness and good taste. 

‘ Le Grand’
Large fruit, of intense yellow colour with streaks of pale red colour. The pulp is pale orange, red in the area next to the stone; it is firm and it has a good taste. 

‘ Nectared 8 ‘
The fruit is of average size, rounded, of intense red colour on a greenish yellow background. The pulp is yellow orange and firm. 

‘ Nectared 9 ‘
The fruit is of average size, intense red colour covering half or two thirds of the surface. The pulp is yellow, firm, and the bone is not adhered to it. 

The Plant 

The nectarine tree is very similar to the peach tree, in fact it is a variety of the latter. For that reason, they both share common characteristics, such as sensitivity to low temperatures and the need of light for the fruit bearing. The nectarine belongs to the family of the Rosaceae, species Prunus persica, variety nectarine; that is to say, it is very similar to the peach tree. It is a deciduous tree, relatively small, of not very vigorous habit, with a chiefly branched and superficial root system. This tree is affected by the low temperatures. It does not bear temperatures below -15ºC, and given its early flowering, it is very sensitive to spring frosts, suffering serious damages at -3ºC. This species needs a lot of light to bear quality fruit. From the genetic point of view, the culture of the nectarine is a very interesting phenomenon in horticulture. The peach trees can be bred from nectarine seeds, and at the same time the nectarine trees may be born from peach seeds. 

Origin and Production 

The origin of the nectarine is unknown, although its history takes us 2,000 years back and arises at the same time as the peach does. From the genetic point of view, the culture of the nectarine is a very interesting phenomenon in horticulture. The countries that produce nectarines are located all along the Mediterranean basin, South Africa, the United States, and Australia. Lately, all the European Union countries have increased their productions. The world-wide production of peaches and nectarines is thought to be around 12,000,000 tons.

COUNTRY    PRODUCTION (thousand tons)         % 
       1998    1999      
  Africa    804    832    7 
  Asia    4,601    4,610    38 
  Europe    3,546    4,183    35 
  North America    1,455    1,484    12 
  Oceania    104    107    1 
  South America    774    825    7 
  TOTAL    11,284    12,041    100 

Source: Fresh Produce Desk Book(2001).

The 10 countries with greater production of peaches and nectarines, along with their production development in the last years, is shown in the following table:

  COUNTRY    PRODUCTION (thousand tons)                
       1989-91    1996    1997    1998 
  China    1,232    2,776    2,996    2,996 
  Italia    1,591    1,754    1,158    1,429 
  The United States    1,303    1,179    1,430    1,300 
  Spain    708    870    925    988 
  Greece    760    876    588    480 
  Francia    475    464    469    470 
  Turkey    339    360    355    400 
  Chile    191    280    270    285 
  Argentina    237    281    290    280 
  South Africa    145    173    251    240 

Source: FAO Production Yearbook 1998.

The state with greater production of comercial varieties in the United States is California, amounting more than 98% of the American production.

The countries with greater production in the European Union are Spain and Italy. In Spain, the main regions are Sevilla and Huelva.

Concerning exports, the main exporters of peaches and nectarines are the countries in the Mediterranean basin.

  COUNTRY    EXPORTS      
       tons1998    thousand U.S.$1998 
  Italy    330,245    349,930 
  Spain    198,196    260,113 
  The United States    83,659    80,593 
  France    70,403    112,053 
  Chile    68,307    48,083 
  
Greece 
  47,079    36,191 
  The Netherlands    12,630    16,784 
  Germany    7,840    10,003 
  South Africa    5,900    6,747 
  Argentina    4,257    4,211 

Source: FAO Trade Yearbook, 1998

The peaches and nectarines imports are shown in the following table:

  IMPORTS VALUE1000$year1999      
  Germany    228,831 
  United Kingdom    115,837 
  France    75,571 
  The United States    64,098 
  Italy    51,816 
  Canada    45,354 
  The Netherlands    34,653 
  Belgium-Luxembourg    34,467 
  Switzerland    30,723 
  Poland    26,876 

(Peaches and nectarines imports)
Source: FAO Trade Yearbook,

  IMPORTS AMOUNT (tons) year 1999      
  Germany    331,280 
  United Kingdom    107,721 
  France    65,591 
  Poland    62,968 
  Canada    54,470 
  TheUnitedStates    48,361 
  Italy    45,720 
  The Netherlands    41,847 
  Poland    37,089 
  Switzerland    32,976 

(Peaches and nectarines imports)
Source: FAO Trade Yearbook, 

Availability 

The nectarine is available all the year round, although in the summer months there is a greater amount of them.

The country of origin and the varieties vary all over the months. Taking the United Kingdom as sample, the following table shows the availability of some varieties that come from the different export countries.

  ORIGIN AND VARIETY    MONTHS OF AVAILABILITY IN THE UNITED KINGDOM 
  ARGENTINA      
  Armking    October-December 
  Early Sun Grand    December-March 
  Flamekist    January-February 
  Late Grand    January-February 
  Le Grand    January-February 
  Regal Grand    January-February 
  AUSTRALIA      
  Firebrite    October-March 
  Flamekist    October-March 
  Late Grand    October-March 
  Le Grand    October-March 
  Redgold    October-March 
  BELGIUM    October-November 
  BULGARIA    July-September 
  CHILE      
  Armking    End of December-January 
  Arm Quen    December 
  Artic Glo    December 
  Artic Snow    February-March 
  August Red    January-February 
  Big John    December 
  Carvera King    November 
  Diamond Jewel    December-January 
  Early Diamond    November-December 
  Early May    November-December 
  Early Sun Grand    December-January 
  Fantasia    Mid December-February 
  Firebrite    February 
  Flamekist    January 
  Flavortop    January-February 
  July Red    January-February 
  May Grand    December-January 
  Nectar Late    February 
  Red Grand    End of December–mid January 
  Rio Red    December 
  Royal Grand    February 
  September Red    January-March 
  Spring Bright    December-January 
  Summer Diamond    January-February 
  Sweet Ice    December-January 
  FRANCE      
  Armking    May-September 
  Early Sun Grand    May-September 
  Fantasia    May-September 
  Independence    May-September 
  May Grand    May-September 
  GREECE      
  Red Gold    May-September 
  ITALY      
  Armking    May-October 
  Early Sun Grand    May-October 
  Firebrite    May-October 
  Independence    May-October 
  Maria Laura    May-October 
  Snow Queen    May-October 
  Spring Red    May-October 
  Stark Red Gold    May-October 
  Supercrimson G    May-October 
  NEW ZEALAND      
  Armking    December-May 
  Fantasia    December-May 
  Firebrite    December-May 
  Flavortop    December-May 
  May Grand    December-May 
  Nectared    December-May 
  Royal Giant    December-May 
  Summer Grand    December-May 
  PORTUGAL      
  Armking    June-September 
  Fantasia    June-September 
  Independence    June-September 
  Maybelle    June-September 
  Red June    June-September 
  SOUTH AFRICA      
  Donnarine    End of December–end of June 
  Aantasia    Beginning of February–end of March 
  Fiesta Red    End of October-Beginning of January 
  Flamekist    End of February–mid April 
  Flavortop    February–end of March 
  Independence    Beginning of January–end of February 
  Margarets    End of October–mid January 
  Mayglo    End of February-mid April 
  Necta Red 9    End of October-Beginning of January 
  Pride    December-Beginning of February 
  Sunlite    December-Beginning of February 
  Zaigina    End of February-mid April 
  SPAIN      
  Armking    June-July 
  Red June    June-July 
  Sun Red    May-June 
  THE UNITED STATES      
  Autumn Delight    August 
  Early Diamond    May-June 
  Early Sun Grand    June-July 
  Fantasia    July-August 
  Firebrite    June 
  Flamekist    August-September 
  July Red    July-August 
  Mayfire    May 
  May Diamond    June 
  Mayglo    May-June 
  May Grand    June 
  Scarlet Red    August-September 
  September Red    September-October 
  Summer Diamond    June-July 
  Summer Grand    July 
  ZIMBABWE      
  Sunlite    End of November–mid December 
  Sunrich    Beginning of December-mid December 
  Panamint    Mid December–end of December 

Source: Fresh Produce Desk Book, 2000 

Packaging 

The nectarines are placed in corrugated cardboard boxes, isolated by means of honeycomb separators. They are also found in trays of polystyrene covered with stretchable plastic film. The most usual package for nectarines is the box or pallet of corrugated cardboard. An open package is preferred (pallet), with a loose cover that allows the content to be removed with easily. The tabs are also usual: they are folded and inserted to form a cover, and removed when the fruit is displayed. The use of honeycomb separators is very common. It is also very frequent to find the nectarines arranged in expanded polystyrene trays of 6 units, covered with plastic film to make the purchase easier. 

Regulation
The Commission Regulation (EC) No 2335/1999 of 3 November 1999 lays down the marketing standards for peaches and nectarines. According to the minimum requirements, the nectarines and peaches must be intact, sound, free of rots or other alterations, clean, practically free from pests and damages caused by them, free of abnormal external moisture and free of any foreign smell or taste. They must have been carefully harvested. The condition of the produce must be such as to enable them to withstand transport and handling and to arrive in satisfactory condition at their place of destination. 

Nectarines and peaches can be graded in four classes: 

1 Extra Class: The peaches and nectarines will be of superior quality, free of any defect except for slight alterations of the skin, provided they do not affect the general appearance of the produce nor the quality, keeping quality and presentation of the package. 

2 Class I: They will be of good quality; small defects of shape, development or colouration are allowed provided the pulp has not undergone any deterioration. Nectarines with an opening in the joint of the peduncle are excluded from this class. 

3 Class II: This class includes the fruit which do not classify for inclusion in the higher classes provided the pulp does not show any important defect. The fruit which is open in the joint of the peduncle will only be admitted up to the limit of quality tolerance of this class. Concerning the provisions referring to the size of the nectarines and peaches, this will be determined by the circumference or the maximum diameter of the equatorial section. The quality tolerances for each class are also laid down in the standard. 

The Extra Class allows 5% by number or weight of nectarines and peaches not fulfilling the requirements of this class, but they may fulfil those of class I or in a special case they will be included in the tolerances of that class. 

Class I allows 10% by number or weight of nectarines or peaches that do not fulfil the requirements of this class, but that fulfil at least those of class II or to be exceptionally included in the tolerances of that class. 

For Class II, 10% by number or weight of nectarines or peaches shall be allowed not fulfilling the class requirements nor the minimum requirements; the fruit affected by rotting, deep bruises or other deterioration such as to make it unfit for consumption is excluded. Tolerances in respect of size allow for all classes 10% by number or weight of nectarines that do not satisfy the requirements of size indicated in the package for a maximum difference of approximately 1 cm in the case of circumference or 3 mm in the case of diameter. The content of each package must be uniform and contain fruit of the same origin, variety, quality, maturation and size; those belonging to the ‘ Extra’ must also have the same coloration. The fruit must be protected and the materials used in the package must be new, clean and a quality such as to avoid any external or internal damage to the produce. The commercial printing or labelling of papers or seals will be made with non-toxic inks or glues. Nectarines are presented in packages in one or two layers according to the category. The packaging company, the origin, and the commercial features must also appear. 

For further information on the provisions for peaches and nectarines, consult the official layout of the Commission Regulation (EC) No 2335/1999 of 3 November 1999 on the marketing standards of peaches and nectarines. 

Quality Criteria 

Postharvest Atmosphere Management 

Nectarines must be harvested in their optimal stage of maturation. If they are still green, they must not be stored in cold storage rooms, since they stop the evolution to maturity. The nectarines may reach the maximum degree of self-life if they are stored at approximately 0ºC, thus ranging from 1 and 5 weeks according to the cultivars. The internal degradation is the greater limitation for the fruit self-life. The culture practices to which the nectarine tree is subject have a greater importance when determining the quality of the fruit and its storage potential. The nectarines of smaller size are generally those that have grown in the external part of the tree crown and have a longer self-life than those of larger size which have grown inside the crown. A method that is often used is the application of ethylene to the fruit harvested in the optimal degree of maturation; this will bring about a greater uniformity of the fruit maturation, without accelerating its rate. Few cultivars may require the application of ethylene in order to have a satisfactory maturation. Nevertheless, this method is hardly used, since it has an enormous economic cost. The application of controlled atmospheres during the storage and packing brings along the maintenance of the fruit firmness and colour. Nevertheless, as for the application of ethylene, this method is not used at a commercial level. 

Postharvest Problems
The nectarines may show during their storage some physiological alterations and diseases.
The most important physiological alterations are: 

– Chilling injuries: internal degradation that shows a darkening of the pulp, loss of taste and and mealy texture. These symptoms usually occur during the maturation at the consumer’s home, after a period of storage in cold storage rooms. These damages occur to fruit which has been stored at temperatures around 2,2 and 7,6ºC. 

– Black colouring (Inking): it is an aesthetic problem that affects only the skin, occurring 24-48 hours after the harvesting. It consists of black or dark brown spots caused by damages occurred when rubbing during the postharvest handling or in the warehouses. In order to prevent these alterations the fruit must be carefully handled. 

The most important diseases are: 

– Brown rot: caused by the fungus Monilinia fructicola; it is the most important postharvest disease. It is easily recognized since it begins with a dark brown wet spot that spreads very fast all over the fruit, turning into a wet and soft rot. The spots are covered afterwards with a white cottony mould that gives off a bitter scent similar to vinegar. This disease occurs after the harvesting, although in many cases the infection has begun at the flowering period. In order to prevent this disease it is recommended to apply fungicides in the preharvest time and to cool right after the harvest. 

– Grey mould: caused by Botrytis cinerea, it also occurs at the consumer’s home and it is characterized by a cottony greyish mould. In many cases, it occurs in areas which have been injured or damaged during the harvest and as a result of the contamination of other damaged fruit. 

– Rhizopus rot: caused by Rhizopus stolonifer and characterized by a brown but dry tissue, as it happens with brown rot, which can be easily removed from the healthy tissue. A way to prevent the disease is by cooling the fruit or keeping it below 5ºC. 

Healthy Effects 

Health Benefits of Nectarines
The quantity of vitamin C in nectarines is scarce. An average-sized fruit supplies approximately 10% of the recommended daily consumption, 60 mg/day. Vitamin C is necessary for the formation of collagen, and at the same time that it plays a role in the synthesis of the neurotransmitters. Vitamin C protects against various types of cancer and intensifies the immunological functions. The pro-vitamin A carotenoids amount is also low; an average-sized nectarine provides approximately 10% of the recommended daily consumption, which is around 1200-1500 µg retinol/day. Vitamin A is important for the sight, growth, the bones development, to keep the body tissues, for the reproduction and development of the hormonal role and the Co-enzymes, besides protecting against cancer. A higher consumption of carotenoids has been related to a decrease of the risk of contracting various types of cancer.  

Popular Tradition
The diabetics must be careful with the consumption of nectarines, since they have a high sugar content, almost twice the content in peaches. The nectarine is one of the fleshy fruit with greater content of vitamin B3. This vitamin takes part in the metabolism of the nutrients, promoting the cholesterol degradation and therefore, helping to reduce its level in the blood. 

Nutrition and Eating
The nectarine is one of the fleshy fruits with greater vitamin B3 content. This vitamin takes part in the metabolism of the nutrients, promoting the degradation of the cholesterol and therefore, helping to reduce its level in the blood.